U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Published in Macromolecules 2008, 41, 1745-1752.


Preferential adsorption of poly(2-vinylpyridine)-deuterated polystyrene-poly(2-vinylpyridine) (PVP-dPS-PVP) triblock copolymers from toluene onto silicon leads to the formation of dPS loops tethered by the PVP end blocks. Using neutron reflectometry, we have determined the segment density profiles of these looped polymer brushes in toluene, a good solvent for the dPS block, and in cyclohexane at 20 °C (poor solvent), 32 °C, (near-Θ solvent), and 50 °C (marginal solvent). While the swelling behavior qualitatively agrees with that observed for singly grafted brushes, there are interesting differences in the local structural details: In a good solvent, the segment density profiles are composed of an inner parabolic region and a long, extended tail. In cyclohexane, the profiles are described by exponential decays. We ascribe these features to a novel polydispersity effect that arises due to tethering the PS loops by both ends. The results also show that the less dense layers undergo more significant changes in swollen height as solvent quality is changed and that the looped brushes of different molecular weight, asymmetry, and tethering density adhere to scaling relationships derived for lightly cross-linked polymer gels.